Spinal Deformity

Scoliosis is one of the most common spinal deformities. In adults it can develop as a result of worn-out joints and spinal discs; in youngsters it may develop without known cause and is referred to as adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS).

A healthy spine provides the main support for the body, allowing a person to stand and sit upright, walk, bend, and twist. Muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bone all contribute to a strong spine and protect the spinal cord. A side view of the normal spine shows it has some curves to it to help it withstand impact and force and to maintain balance. In particular, the neck (cervical spine) has a slight C-shaped inward curve to it, as does the low back (lumbar spine). This C-shape is known as lordosis. The mid-back (thoracic spine) and sacral areas have a reverse (outward) C-shape, which is called kyphosis. Both lordosis and kyphosis are normal. (It is important to note that the exaggerated, problematic curve that is officially known as hyperkyphosis is sometimes referred to simply as kyphosis. Hyperkyphosis is not the same as normal kyphosis.) From the front or back, a healthy spine appears straight.

Spinal deformity occurs when the curves of the spine differ from the normal, gentle S-shape seen from the side, or the straight line down the back of a normal spine. Spinal deformities may lead to symptoms that include pain, weakness, numbness, tingling, loss of function, and pulmonary and cardiac problems.

A few types of spinal deformities that can be successfully treated with spinal surgery are scoliosis, kyphosis, and spondylolisthesis.

  • Scoliosis is a spinal deformity that results in a side-to-side curve, most commonly found in the mid-back, or thoracic region. A scoliosis curve of the spine can be seen from the back and can lead to a deformity in the rib cage as well as the spine. When it develops early in life for no know reason it is known as Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis.
  • Kyphosis (more accurately hyperkyphosis) is an exaggerated forward curvature of the spine. The word kyphosis is from the Greek kyphos, which means hump, and the condition is also known as humpback, round back, or dowager’s hump.
  • Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one of the vertebrae (bones) in the spine slips out of the proper position onto the vertebra below it, putting pressure on the disc and a nerve.

Our Care Team

  • Professor of Neurological Surgery, Spinal Surgery
  • Co-Director, Spinal Deformity and Scoliosis Program
  • Director, Spinal Trauma/Adult and Pediatric Spinal Surgery
Phone: 212-746-2260
  • Hansen-MacDonald Professor of Neurological Surgery
  • Director of Spinal Surgery
Phone: 212-746-2152
  • Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery
Phone: 646-962-3388
  • Clinical Associate Professor of Neurosurgery
  • Attending Neurosurgeon
Phone: 888-922-2257
  • Assistant Professor, Neurosurgery 
Phone: (888) 922-2257
  • Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery
Phone: 866-426-7787 (Manhattan) / 646-967-2020 (Brooklyn)
  • Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery, Spine Surgery
Phone: 718-670-1837 (Queens) / 888-922-2257 (Manhattan)
  • Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery
Phone: (718) 670-1837
  • Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery, Spine Surgery
Phone: 718-780-3070

Reviewed by: Kai-Ming Fu, MD, PhD
Last Reviewed/Last Updated: August 2021
Illustrations by Thom Graves, CMI

Weill Cornell Medicine Neurological Surgery 525 East 68 Street, Box 99 New York, NY 10065 Phone: 866-426-7787